First let me tell you all a secret — Julian Casablancas’ stepfather is president of the Ford Modeling Agency. Now, everyone gasp in unison. You wondered where he met all those malnourished European ladies, right? So does this disappoint you? Did this scruffy anti-hero just lose a little of his street cred? Do his dirty clothes, sullen look and unflattering acne seem a little more calculated now? Or did you already have all this information, only to conclude that it really is all about the tunes, dude?
I’ve never had much interest in the ideologies behind punk/garage/hardcore/snot rock. How does one achieve that enviable state of gritty realism? What separates the relatively safe from the truly raw? From what I can gather, it’s much better for someone’s reputation if the great albums all came out twenty years ago. Movie appearances and edgy pop star status are frowned upon. There may be occasional lapses in this rule, namely Johnny Rotten and Iggy Pop, who continue the unabated milking of their previous status, regardless of musical and cultural irrelevance.
But truly, someone had to reach pretty far up the ass crack of that static sea known as rock music to pull out a pile of dreck as shameless as Daughter. Check out the cover: two foxy vixens calling themselves M.L.Platt and Nicole Lombardi leer toward the viewer enticingly. A thought bubble might read “Try us! You’ll like us! We’re nasty little bitches … Oh yeah and we sing punk rock too! We like spanking and boys with lots of tattoos!” One is even covered in soap suds — no joke. She’s cradling her own nipples to save us from the horrifying experience of viewing such perfect punk rock breasts. And they’re a multicultural group too, see? The guitarist looks like a Pakistani and the drummer looks like a drunk bumpkin.
On to the music, then, which is everything you would expect from such a group of obvious poseurs — lots of fast snare pops, abrasive guitars and ear-splitting yelps. A chick on bass. Power chords. Drum rolls. Nearly every song ends in a screaming caricature of itself. It’s all reminiscent of a third-tier Courtney Love, if you can imagine anything that unspeakable. One point on the board for Daughter, though — the women do all the singing, but you would never guess it. Their nasal monotones manage to sound quite a bit like a group of bratty post-adolescent dickheads. The album’s absolute low point is “Blunt,” a faux reggae bounce covered by the ladies’ ruminations on nonsense like “meetings of the drug subcommittee.” Choice line: “Ya gotta respect anyone sparking a joint with a lightsaber.” Pretty self-explanatory stuff.
On second thought, I have to take back that last critique — “Packin'”(as in the weed) is a much more embarrassing mess than the previous track, though at least I can’t quite make out the lyrics this time around. And let’s not even mention the sorry-ass “rock the mike with multi-colored Reeboks” excuse for hip-hop attempted on “Hands in My Pants.” Or the go-go beats of the atrocious “Love Song.” Oh, and then there’s “Lonely Gauge,” which appears to be an impromptu unplugged version of the already negligible “Misbehaving.” Thought there might be relative peace after eleven tracks, but Daughter’s not yet through with their brand of faceless aural torture. The album’s final trick, a “secret,” no less, is a bit of tape loop noise over a dead-serious lecture on the esoteric merits of digital audio technology. Forgive me, but I’m just too tired to tear it apart, so I’ll summarize my sentiments with a fictional dialogue from the school of punk rock.
Student: Professor, I’ve listened to Skin all the way through twice, and I still get the feeling that there’s a painfully stale in-joke hanging over the whole punk rock club. Kinda like the Mooney Suzuki.
Teacher: Well son, the good news for Daughter is that authenticity has nothing to do with whether or not you can play. Anyone can slam four chords and sing about how much everybody else sucks. You can even throw in some vague political commentary. But if you’re not truly living the hardcore lifestyle, people on the street will see right through you.
Student: Gee, professor, I guess I don’t know too much about punk rock, do I?
Teacher: No, you really don’t, son. Best stick to your pretentious black turtleneck-wearing experimental crowd. Or your dreadlock-flavored chai-drinking-pothead world music crap. Oh well, at least that’s marginally better than these nu-garage poseurs like the Strokes or the Kings of Leon or Jet. You know, the Australian fuckers with the blatant “Lust For Life” rip-off playing on the IPod commercial? By the way, nothing can ever top Fun House. Or The Ramones. Or Entertainment by Gang of Four. Period.
Student: Wow, you’re really mean, professor. Y’know, Julian Casablancas may be a fully operating self-parody who can’t sing for shit, but at least he’s modest, which is more than I can say for assholes like yourself. And do you know what I learned today about Daughter’s first album?
Teacher: What’s that son?
Student: It’s crap, sir. It’s total fucking crap.